Buying a Camera?

2 Oct

Many people shoot in what is called Automatic mode, which allows the camera to make all the settings for you. But, you probably want to learn about some of the advanced features and techniques of digital photography. In this post, I will attempt to describes some basic features you will want to consider when purchasing a camera. Or if you already have a camera, you will want to be familiar with these features.

Megapixel/Memory Size

Mostcamera buyers think the higher number of megapixels a camera has, the better the quality of photos. This is not really the truth and camera sellers have been selling cameras with larger megapixels than most people really need. Megapixel size relates to the size of the prints you make at a typical resolution of 240ppi. You want to make sure that camera you purchase will be at least 3-5 megapixels, which enables you to make 4×6 to 8×10 prints. Most cameras these days will start at this size. If you’re doing professional photography, you will want to get at least an 8-10 pixel size camera, or larger, for larger size prints if needed. But remember, if you’re shooting with say an 8-10 megapixel camera, your image files will be two to three times larger than with a 3 megapixel camera. With an 8-10 megapixel camera, you will pretty much be able to get prints at A2 and even A1. (Dependent upon the image)

Image Stabilisation

Cameras that include image stabilization can sometimes help reduce the blur that occurs from the movement of a camera or subject. You still need to learn to steady your shots, but image stabilization can often help you when the ambient light for the shot is too low or when the camera is having difficulty focusing on the subject.

Menu Control

When you are “playing” with a camera, notice how easy or difficult it is to access the different control features. If you plan on using your camera a lot, beyond the simple point-and-shoot mode, you will want camera controls to be easily accessible. At best, a cameras exposure setting (aperture, shutter speed, and other modes) should be accessed outside the camera. There is no point in you having to go into the menus to hunt down and change these settings for each shot. Pretty much all DSLR cameras have dedicated wheels and buttons for these important functions.


Optical Zoom vs Digital Zoom

First off, we need to get something straight. Optical zoom and Digital zoom are not the same thing.

Without getting too technical, Optical zoom is achieved through the use of optical quality glass and the positioning of it inside a lens. Digital zoom is pretty much the camera “looking” at what it sees, then applying a magnifying glass. Yes, this means you get to have the image closer to you, but the resolution is usually very poor. As a result you really cannot print the image or enlarge it beyond the smallest 4X6 size.

Ideally, your non-DSLR camera should be set to shoot in Optical zoom, which “uses the optics (lens) of a camera to bring the subject closer”. So optical zoom is what you should primarily use on your point-and-shoot camera.


If you are looking to do advance photography, you need to make sure your camera includes manual exposure capabilities, which include full manual exposure, aperture and shutter priority, wide ISO range, and flash compensation. These advance features are a part of compact and DSLR cameras. You cannot use these features when you’re shooting in Automatic mode or some of the preset modes, such as night or portrait mode.

With advance features you have more control over certain shooting situations. For example, you can shoot in what is called Shutter priority mode, which provides control over how long the shutter is “open”. If you shoot with a slow shutter speed (e.g.1/15th of a second), the subject will have some blur to depict movement. If you select a fast shutter speed (e.g. 1/2500th of a second), you can freeze a moving subject. I will cover this in later posts.

RAW Capabilities

If you plan on doing detailed processing of your images in programs like Photoshop, iPhoto or Lightroom ()I will talk about different programs at a later date, you will want to make sure your camera can shoot in RAW, as well as JPEG mode. All cameras can shoot in JPEG mode, but not all, especially point-and-shoot cameras, can shoot RAW photos. There is a major difference between the two modes. With JPEG an algorithm in the camera drops some image data and compresses each shot, which makes for a smaller image file. With RAW photos all image data is retained. Images shot in JPEG and RAW modes look the same. The difference comes when you’re processing photos in an RAW image editor, you have more control over making changes to areas such as White Balance, exposure contrast, saturation, sharpness, and other settings. With a DSLR, you are able to control your White Balance, if for example your white balance control is set for indoor shooting, but you’re actually shooting outdoors, you can edit and outdoor white balance setting when you open the image in a RAW image editor. (More about that later)

The biggest draw back to RAW photos is that the files are a lot larger and thus fill up memory cards very fast. You also must use a RAW image editor to process RAW photos. But if you want or need to process the image, the RAW format is the only way to go to do it properly.


Brand can play a major difference in cameras, especially at the point and shoot level. There are some very poorly features/constructed beasts out there, that are poorly designed, poorly built and whilst offering some spectacular features and making some brilliant claims are not really up to par. Generally, go with a brand name, such as Sony, Kodak, Samsung, FujiFilm and the like.

When it comes to DSLR cameras, there are a smaller number of cameras to choose from. The major players are Nikon and Canon. Other manufacturers such as Sony and Olympus make comparable equipment, but for the larger range of options and lenses, Nikon and Canon are the usual choices.

And remember, the megapixel are not the most important feature. Do some serious research, check out sensors and go from there. There is a lot of information out there, so read it, and go to manufacturer websites to compare, Also compare camera on google. A simple search such as Canon 60D vs Nikon D3200, will yield some excellent information.

One Response to “Buying a Camera?”

  1. drop crotch chinos May 6, 2014 at 4:32 pm #

    Way cool! Some very valid points! I appreciate you writing this article and also the rest of
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